Federal health officials proposed Thursday to revamp stringent patient confidentiality regulations from the 1970s to encourage coordination among medical professionals treating people caught in the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the goal is to make it easier to share a patient’s drug treatment history with doctors treating that person for other problems. That can stave off serious — even fatal — errors, like unwittingly prescribing opioid painkillers to a surgical patient with a history of dependence. A patient’s consent would still be required.
For example, said Azar, a hospital doctor seeing a patient who is being treated with methadone for heroin addiction might decide not to mention that medication in the patient’s record. The doctor might be concerned that could trigger official scrutiny of the hospital’s own records system. Later on, another doctor treating the same patient might prescribe another drug that’s not safe to take with methadone, as are common anti-anxiety medications. Such omissions could have serious repercussions for the patient.
Source: Associated Press